The Freedom Agenda (FA) of the Black Radical Congress (BRC). Ratified by the BRC
National Council (NC), April 17, 1999, Baltimore, Maryland.
During the last 500 years, humanity has displayed on a colossal scale its capacity for
creative genius and ruthless destruction, for brutal oppression and indomitable survival,
for rigid tradition and rapid change. The Americas evolved to their present state of
development at great cost to their original, indigenous peoples, and at great cost to those
whose labor enabled modernization under the yoke of that protracted crime against
humanity, slavery. Even so, a good idea is implicit in the Declaration of Independence of
the United States: that all people are "endowed with certain inalienable rights, and among
these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That the idea of a just society,
contained in those words, remains unrealized is what compels this declaration.
Not only has the idea not been realized, but we are moving further away from its
realization by the hour. Global capitalism, both the cause and effect of neo-liberal and
Reaganist policies, has facilitated the transfer of enormous wealth from the bottom to the
top of society in recent years, concentrating the control of abundant resources in ever
fewer hands. As a result, the working people who constitute the vast majority of people
have confronted a steady decline in their prospects for earning a decent living and
controlling their lives. In the U.S., the threat of sudden unemployment hangs over most
households. We pay unfair taxes and receive fewer services, while multibillion-doUar
fortunes accumulate in the private sector. Prisons proliferate as budgets are slashed for
public schools, day care, healthcare and welfare. The grip of big money on the two-party
electoral process has robbed us of control over the political institutions that are mandated
to serve us. We are losing ground, and democracy is more and more elusive.
As for people of African descent, most of whose ancestors were among the shackled
millions who helped build the edifices and culture of the Americas, we carry an
enormously disproportionate burden. In the U.S., the living legacy of slavery, and the
pervasiveness of institutional white supremacy, have placed us on all-too-familiar terms
with poverty, urban and rural; exploitative conditions of employment; disproportionately
high rates of unemployment and underemployment; inferior health care; substandard
education; the corrosive drug trade, with its accompanying gun violence; police brutality
and its partner, excessive incarceration; hate-inspired terrorism; a biased legal system,
and discrimination of every kind — persistent even after the end of legal segregation.
Resistance is in our marrow as Black people, given our history in this place. From the
Haitian revolution, to the U.S. abolitionist movement against slavery, to the 20th Century
movement for civil rights and empowerment, we have struggled and died for justice. We
believe that struggle must continue, and with renewed vigor. Our historical experiences
suggest to us, by negative example, what a truly just and democratic society should look
like: It should be democratic, not just in myth but in practice, a society in which all
people — regardless of color, ethnicity, religion, nationality, national origin, sex, sexual
orientation, age, family structure, or mental or physical capability — enjoy full human
rights, the fruits of their labor, and the freedom to realize their full human potential. If
you agree, and if you are committed to helping achieve justice and democracy in the 21st
Century, please sign your name and/or the name of your organization to this 15 -point
THE FREEDOM AGENDA
I. We will fight for the human rights of Black people and all people.
We will struggle for a society and world in which every individual enjoys full human
rights, full protection of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and in the
United States equal protection of the Constitution and of all the laws. We seek a society
in which every individual— regardless of color, nationality, national origin, ethnicity,
religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, family structure, or mental or physical capability-
is free to experience "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." We affirm that all people
are entitled to:
a. a safe and secure home;
b. employment at a living wage — that is, compensation for the full value of their
c. free, quality health care, including full reproductive freedom with the right to
choose when or whether to bear children, and free, quality child care;
d. free, quality public education.
We oppose the Human Genome Project in its current form and with its current leadership,
and we oppose all sociobiological or genetic experiments that are spurred by, and help
perpetuate, scientific racism.
We will fight for a society and world in which every individual and all social groups can
live secure, dignified lives.
II. We will fight for political democracy.
We will struggle to expand political democracy to ensure the people's greater
participation in decision-making. In the U.S., we will work to replace the current two-
party, winner-take-all electoral system with a more democratic multiparty system based
on proportional representation, and we will fight to abolish all registration procedures
that restrict the number of eligible voters. We oppose private financing of electoral
campaigns, especially corporate contributions; we will work to replace the
present corrupt system with public financing.
III. We will fight to advance beyond capitalism, which has demonstrated its
structural incapacity to address basic human needs worldwide and, in particular,
the needs of Black people.
Guided by our belief that people should come before profits, we will fight to maximize
economic democracy and economic justice:
a. We seek full employment at livable wages, public control of private sector
financial operations, worker control of production decisions, and a guaranteed
annual income for the needy;
b. we will fight to end racial discrimination by capitalist enterprises, especially
banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions;
c. we seek a society in which working people enjoy safe working conditions and
flexible hours to accommodate family responsibilities, leisure and vacations;
d. we seek laws mandating public ownership of utilities, and mandating federal
and local budgetary emphases on programs for the general welfare-- health care,
education, public transportation, recreation and infrastructure;
e. we will struggle for laws that regulate private sector business practices,
especially regarding prices, fees, plant shutdowns and job relocations — where
shutdowns are permitted, adequate compensation to workers shall be required;
f. we support the historical mission of trade unions to represent workers' interests
and to negotiate on their behalf;
g. we seek a fair, equitable, highly progressive tax system that places the heaviest
taxes on the wealthiest sector, and we seek expansion of the earned income tax
IV. We will fight to end the super-exploitation of Southern workers.
More than 50 percent of people of African descent residing in the U.S. live in the South,
where workers' earnings and general welfare are besieged by corporate practices, and
where "right to work" laws undermine union organizing. Thus, we seek relief for
Southern workers from corporate oppression, and we will struggle to repeal anti-union
laws. We will also fight for aid to Black farmers, and for the restoration of farm land
seized from them by agribusiness, speculators and real estate developers.
V. We will struggle to ensure that all people in society receive free
We affirm that all are entitled to free, quality public education throughout their lifetime.
Free education should include adult education and retraining for occupational and career
changes. We will fight to ensure that curricula in U.S. schools, colleges and universities
are anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic, and for curricula that adequately
accommodate students' needs to express and develop their artistic, musical or other
VI. We will struggle against state terrorism.
We will fight for a society in which every person and every community is free from state
repression, including freedom from state-sponsored surveillance. We seek amnesty for,
and the release of, all political prisoners. We will struggle to repeal all legislation that
expands the police power of the state and undermines the U.S. Constitution's First and
Fourth Amendments. We will fight to eliminate the deliberate trafficking in drugs and
weapons in our communities by organized crime, and by institutions of the state such as
the Central Intelligence Agency.
VII. We will struggle for a clean and healthy environment.
We will fight for a society in which the welfare of people and the natural environment
takes precedence over commercial profits and political expediency. We will work to
protect, preserve and enhance society's and the planet's natural heritage — forests, lakes,
rivers, oceans, mountain ranges, animal life, flora and fauna. In the U.S., we will struggle
against environmental racism by fighting for laws that strictly regulate the disposal of
hazardous industrial waste, and that forbid both the discriminatory targeting of poor and
non-white communities for dumping and despoilment of the natural environment.
VIII. We will fight to abolish police brutality, unwarranted incarceration and the
We are determined to end police brutality and murder:
a. We will fight for strong civilian oversight of police work by elected civilian
review boards that are empowered to discipline police misconduct and enforce
residency requirements for police officers;
b. we seek fundamental changes in police training and education to emphasize
public service over social control as the context in which law enforcement occurs,
and to stress respect for the histories and cultures of the U.S. -born and immigrant
c. we seek to limit incarceration to the most violent criminals, only those who
have clearly demonstrated their danger to the lives and limbs of others;
d. regarding non-violent offenders, we demand that they be released and provided
with appropriate medical, rehabilitative and educative assistance without
e. we will struggle for abolition of the death penalty, which has been abolished in
the majority of developed nations. In the U.S., the history of the death penalty's
application is inextricable from the nation's origins as a slave state. Since
Emancipation, it has been a white supremacist tool intended to maintain control
over a population perceived as an alien, ongoing threat to the social order.
Application of the death penalty, which is highly discriminatory on the basis of
color and class, violates international human rights law and must be eliminated.
IX. We will fight for gender equality, for women's liberation, and for women's
rights to be recognized as human rights in all areas of personal, social, economic and
We will work to create a society and world in which women of African descent, along
with their sisters of other colors, nationalities and backgrounds, shall enjoy non-
discriminatory access to the education, training and occupations of their choice. We will
struggle to ensure that all women enjoy equal access to quality health care and full
reproductive rights, including the right to determine when or whether they will bear
children and the right to a safe, legal abortion. We will fight to end domestic abuse and
sexual harassment in the workplace.
X. We recognize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as full and equal
members of society, and of our communities.
We affirm the right of all people to love whom they choose, to openly express their
sexuality, and to live in the family units that meet their needs. We will fight against
homophobia, and we support anti-homophobic instruction in public schools. We will
fight for effective legal protections for the civil rights and civil liberties of lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender people, and we demand that violence and murder committed
against such people be prosecuted as hate crimes. We will also fight to end discrimination
against this sector in employment, health care, social welfare and other areas.
XL We support affirmative action.
We will fight to retain and expand affirmative action policies in education, employment,
the awarding of government contracts and all other areas affected by historical and
contemporary injustices. Affirmative action, with goals and timetables, is indispensable
for achieving equal opportunity, justice and fairness for the members of all historically
XII. We will fight for reparations.
Reparations is a well-established principle of international law that should be applied in
the U.S. Historically, the U.S. has been both the recipient and disburser of reparations. As
the descendants of enslaved Africans, we have the legal and moral right to receive just
compensation for the oppression, systematic brutality and economic exploitation Black
people have suffered historically and continue to experience today. Thus, we seek
reparations from the U.S. for
a. its illegal assault on African peoples during the slave trade;
b. its exploitation of Black labor during slavery, and
c. its systematic and totalitarian physical, economic and cultural violence against
people of African descent over the last four centuries.
XIII. We will struggle to build multicultural solidarity and alliances among all
people of color.
We will fight against white supremacist tactics aimed at dividing people of color. We
seek alliances with other people of color to develop unified strategies for achieving
multicultural democracy, and for overcoming the divisions that exist around such issues
as immigration, bilingual education, political representation and allocation of resources.
XIV. We will uphold the right of the African American people to
The formation of the Black Radical Congress in June 1998 was an act of African
American self-determination, a principle which is codified in the United Nations
Declaration of Human Rights. The African American people are entitled to define the
direction, priorities, allies and goals of our struggle against national and racial
oppression. Building the power to exercise these prerogatives is central to our struggle
against all the systems of oppression confronting our people. Therefore, we will fight for
both a national program of liberation and for a mass base of power in the social sectors,
institutions, all levels of government, communities and territories of society that affect
the lives of our people.
XV. We support the Uberation struggles of all oppressed people.
We affirm our solidarity with peoples of African descent throughout the African
diaspora. We support their struggles against imperialism and neo-colonialism from
without, as well as against governmental corruption, exploitation and human rights
abuses from within. We especially support struggles against transnational corporations,
whose global market practices gravely exploit all workers, abuse workers' rights and
threaten all workers' welfare. We affirm our solidarity with all oppressed people around
the world, whatever their color, nation or religion —none of us is free unless all are free.
We believe that all people everywhere should enjoy the right to self-determination and
the right to pursue their dreams, unfettered by exploitation and discrimination.
[End of Freedom Agenda - Ratified April 17, 1999]